I wasn’t sold about doing a standalone post on the transfer extravaganza but then clubs – some of them anyway – decided to go nuts putting those television dollars to work this week, and what kind of sissy sport spirit guide would I be if I didn’t at least chime in.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry on the internet seems to have their own opinion of how each team fared in their attempt to fill holes and/or build out squads, this despite the fact that grading clubs on transfer moves at this juncture is almost as pointless as preseason NCAA basketball/football polls (look no further than all the middling grades that Leicester heading into last season), but 95% of the rationale for blogging – beyond hoarding chicks – is pissing people off, so let’s take a quick look at how ya boy declares each club did this summer…
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
EPL clubs spent $1.5 billion on transfers this summer. That is……. a lot of money. To paint a pretty picture for you, take a look at how that figure stacks up against the other big European leagues:
In fact, thanks to the wonders of Microsoft Excel, here is a slightly different graphical representation of the same datapoints:
However, as Leicester proved beyond a shadow of a doubt last season, and Southampton has been proving for years, spending adroitly is far more important than spending profligately.
So who spent smart and who spent dumb (if at all)? [Note: before you sprint down to the comments to take issue with certain numbers, keep in mind that the figures I am quoting are estimated NET spend… a lot of slightly different numbers get thrown out because some deals are undisclosed or contingent on milestones, etc.]
City – A (£163 million in estimated NET spend)
Quintessential case of rich kid didn’t like the grades he got last year so he had daddy buy the entire school. This makes two years in a row now that City has spent its balls off in the summer transfer window, though Pep’s buys this time around made more sense to my wee brain. The addition of Nolito (from Celta Vigo) has looked like an especially smart bit of business, though the crown jewel of the window has to be getting rid of Douche Numero Uno – if only for a season.
United – A- (£152 million)
To be honest, judging United and City’s transfer windows against the rest of the league doesn’t really seem all that fair. The Zlatan is old, Paul Pogba is saddled with unconscionable expectations, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has too many damn H’s to be a real person, but that’s the devil’s advocate in me talking because those three plus (the less heralded but at least as important) defender Eric Bailly is an unreal inflow of talent. I mean, how could this team NOT win the Champions League this season??
Burnley – B+ (£21 million)
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of my attempt to grade on a curve. Not the sexiest window but they did break their transfer record twice on defender Steven Defour (from Anderlecht) followed by midfielder Jeff Hendrick (from Derby), and added some depth to a roster that was painfully thin on top flight-level talent. It may still be a tough season but the club at least opened the purse strings in an effort to compete, which is as much as you can ask (and better than their last cup of coffee).
Leicester – B (£21 million)
Trying to keep Kante and Mahrez was the top priority, but it was also a pipe dream given the intense interest in both, so the Foxes likely deserve at least a passing grade just for holding on to one of the two. Add to that the fact they snagged striker Ahmed Musa from CSKA early on then later splurged on Sporting’s Islam Slimani, and suddenly they are looking like one of the more dynamic offensive teams in the league. Having said all that, pundits are fighting one another to polish Leicester’s knob while either forgetting or being oblivious to the fact defense was already shaping up to be the club’s weakness, about which very little was done. The club may end up ruing that decision at some point.
Crystal Palace – B (£8 million)
Don’t get confused and suddenly think the Eagles catapulted themselves out of danger this season, because they most definitely did not, but strikers Christian Benteke (form Liverpool) and Lioc Remy (from Chelsea) are the kind of players that couldn’t quite cut it at their respective clubs but could be surprisingly productive in a no-nonsense environment where they can concentrate on producing rather than constantly fighting for minutes. Club still has holes galore but James Tomkins (from West Ham) and the dead corpse of Andros Townsend (from Newcastle) – recently murdered by Erik Lamela – should help in the battle to avoid the drop.
Middlesbrough – B- (£16 million)
Got things started off on the right foot early with loan move for striker Alvaro Negredo (from Valencia), and added another six players to a team that looks ready to compete for a place in the upper bottom-half of the table.
West Ham – C+ (£43 million)
Andre Ayew (from Swansea) went from “great buy” to “horrible buy” when his thigh muscle to exploded 20 minutes into his first game with the club, but I am trying not to judge them too harshly based on an unfortunate event like that. Sofiane Feghouli and Simone Zaza will add depth and Alvaro Abreloa is a workhorse who should bring with him some much-needed big-game experience. In fact, the Hammers deserve a better grade simply for hanging on to Dimitri Payet for another season, though I will refrain from giving it to them since nobody is more afraid of success than West Ham (with the possible exception of Tottenham).
Chelsea – C+ (£86 million)
N’Golo Kante was a great buy, plain and simple. Batshuayi has looked like a useful complement to Diego Costa, which could blossom into a nice partnership assuming the latter can stop fouling and diving like a madman since at some point refs are going to stop giving him free passes. Grade would have been much higher if not for paying way too much for David Luiz, who is going to be an anchor around Kante’s all season.
Also, for the fanboys dying to disagree on what Luiz was originally sold for:
Stoke – C (£18 million)
I honest know nothing about the “Island of Misfit Toys” other than they are a band, but that’s also a highly appropriate nom de guerre for the Potters at this point. They brought in City and Liverpool rejects Wilfried Bony and Joe Allen (English Messi whoop whooooooop), respectively, and are hoping they flourish alongside a growing list of talented players – think Shaqiri, Arnautovic, Krkic, Afellay – that for various reasons didn’t work out at other clubs. Strikes me as a solid way to make sure the club can keep paying the mortgage on its home in the upper middle class of the EPL table… though a title run is out of the question.
Arsenal – C (£85 million)
Gotta love Gooners. They were shitting their pants for months over the club’s inability/unwillingness to make moves, then suddenly they are winning the league after a couple splashy deals. Giving Liverpool fans a serious run for their money for title of the league’s biggest Chicken Littles. Truth be told, Granit Xhaka (from Borussia Monchenpenisgladbach) looks a lot like the type of defensive CM that the club has needed desperately for years, so solid buy there. Adding defender Shkodran Mustafi (from Valencia) – one of two big buys late in the window – should also help plug a massive hole in the back. However, I am not nearly as sold on “striker” Lucas Perez (from Deportivo), who is a late-bloomer at age 27 but has not shown the consistency that Arsenal crave. Or perhaps his and Giroud’s respective inefficiencies will paper over one another’s shortcomings? To be clear, I’m not saying the unbiased portion of my brains hates Arsenal’s line-up. When you’ve got guys like Ozil and Lexi roaming around you’re going to score goals, but 1) these moves did not vault them into title contention and 2) it just seems like a lot of money for what they got.
Watford – C- (£32 million)
Gotta give credit where credit is due. The Hornets spent heavily on eight players, with midfield Roberto Pereyra (from Juventus) and striker Isaac Success (from Granada) being the headliners, and should help fill some of the club’s numerous holes. However, it will still be tough to survive the bad joo-joos the club brought on itself by inexplicably firing Quique Sanchez Flores after last season.
Tottenham – C- (£34 million)
I gave Spurs a bad grade last season when they mostly just stood pat but Mauricio Pochettino showed that young talent, cohesion and good coaching can sometimes work as well (if not better) than spending buttloads of money. I figured the club was going to add a few tuck-ins but stay largely the same again, but nope, wrong again. An optimist would say the club added depth with guys like Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen that will come in useful given the heavy schedule, while a pessimist would suggest they are knockoff versions of existing players (Eric Dier and Harry Kane). Moussa Sissoko, and to a lesser extent Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, add some dynamic potential but Sissoko’s price tag was too high and adding a talented but temperamental wild card to the mix scares me.
Sunderland – C- (£21 million)
Black Cats caught a lot of grief on the interwebs for their transfer business this window, however, considering they were hamstrung by how long it took for Sam Allardyce to take the England job, it seems a bit unfair to judge them that harshly. The loss of Emmanuel Giaccherini is unfortunately but new manager David Moyes hung on to centerback Lamine Kone, which was a bit of a coup, while consistent playing time for guys like Adnan Januzaj (from United) and Javier Manquillo (from Atleti) might be just what the doctor ordered. Little surprised they were willing to cough up £13 million for midfielder Didier NDong (from Lorient), which ain’t cheap, but he should be a big upgrade.
Hull – D+ (£8 million)
Solid first three games but unfortunately for Los Tigres there are 35 more to play and things could get dicey. Consciously deciding to make Ryan Mason (from Spurs) your marquee signing of the summer transfer window is a red flag in my book.
Liverpool – D (negative £0.5 million)
Klopp is attempting the old addition by subtraction approach, having wordlessly called Brendan Rodgers a complete and utter moron by offloading a total of 13 players during the summer transfer window. Sadio Mane was a great buy but I’m not at all sold on many of the other newcomers. Treading water is a recipe for drowning in today’s mega-money era of the EPL.
Swansea – D- (negative £9 million)
The Swans sold two of their most talented players in Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams without seemingly bringing in enough to replace them. Hopefully Daniel has some money left over after paying his NYC rent to pitch in and buy some guys in January – they might need it.
Southampton – F+ (negative £20 million)
Every year the Saints sell the core of their team, and every year they regenerate players like a god damn hydra. Then again, they no longer have Ronald Koeman’s eye for talent so until the club shows they can continue to make talent appear out of a hat I can’t help but remain dubious. Sofiane Boufal (from Lille), Nathan Redmond (from Norwich) and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (from Bayern) are nice players and all but tough to imagine them adding up to anything close to what the club just lost. Penny pinching (and/or profit-padding) may finally catch up to Southampton this time around.
West Brom – F (£13.5 million)
Honestly, I just feel bad for Nacer Chadli. He’s been a solid player for Spurs but just as the club is about to play some Champions League football old dude got shipped off to the Land Where Soccer Dreams Go To Die And/Or Finish In 14th… otherwise known as Tony Pulis’ happy place. No idea how they managed to spend that much money considering all the question marks surrounding additions Matt Phillips (from QPR) and Brandan Galloway (from Everton).
R.I.P. Nacer, you deserved better sweet prince
Everton – F- (negative £1 million)
All things being equal, this was a solid window for the Toffees – in fact bringing stealing manager Ronald Koeman away from Southampton is probably worth of a B+ right there. Add to that winger Yannick Bolasie (from Palace) and Ashley Williams (from Swansea) to lock down the center of defense, plus perhaps most importantly hanging on to striker Romelu Lukaku, and this should be looked back upon as a successful transfer window. However, despite all that, getting big-dicked by Spurs – Tottenham Hotspur of all teams! – right at the death in the fight to get Moussa Sissoko (overpriced and questionable as the move may prove to be) is the equivalent of getting caught cheating on your final exam, which is an automatic failure… and possible expulsion. Get it together, Everton.
Bournemouth – INC (£16 million)
Cherries did some interesting moves, including Jordan Ibe, but their window will ultimately be judged on one thing and one thing alone: whether Jack Wheelchair can stay healthy. He is an angry little garden gnome, about that there is no doubt, but he is also a helluva player. If he stays healthy Bournemouth could threaten for a mid-table finish. If not they might find themselves in a relegation scrap.
Quick overview for all the picture readings in our midst:
There you have it. 20 grades for 20 clubs. I’ve got a Champions League preview (with predictions) all typed up and ready to go but may end up holding off and posting that early next week since I’ve also got a USMNT post ready to go ahead of this afternoon’s World Cup qualifier. Get pumped.
Sam U. L. Army